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Co-parenting can be hard, if you were both on the same page then you would not have split up in the first place – now you might find yourself still not anywhere near the same page even when not together.
It’s not at the point where it’s causing serious problems for you and you feel it’s not fair on the child what happens during these overnight stays.
Overnight access is when the child stays overnight at the partner’s home, where they have the responsibility of their care the same way you do when you have them every other night. Ideally, you want them to properly parent the child the same way you would but it is not always the case.
If it gets serious enough, you may want it stopped completely. Here we discuss that it is quite difficult to stop it but if you are adamant there are steps you really need to take.
We’ve covered a couple of co-parenting articles from reasonable access on weekends, to letting the partner know where you live. In this one we are going to discuss whether or not overnight access can be stopped.
Can You Stop Overnight Access?
No, you can’t stop overnight access unless the courts have decided. If you and your former partner have not been to court for a judgement then it can’t be stopped, not legally.
If you attempt to stop it without a court order then you are breaking the law and harming your case later on if you want to go down the proper channels.
The only way to stop overnight access is through the courts. If the courts have decided they can have overnight access then you are breaking the law but not allowing it. If the courts have said they can’t have overnight access and go ahead with it then they are breaking the law.
Both parents have an equal responsibility to parent the child, even when parenting styles are different. The father or mother with overnight access has the right to do whatever they want (within reason) with their child – this does include bed times, choice of food, company they keep and places they go, bare that in mind.
It also works both ways, your partner doesn’t have a say in what you do with your child.
With all the steps involved, stopping overnight access is the most extreme option for you and the courts – the most likely course of action is for a Parenting Plan to be created where all parties agree to certain legally binding rules during overnight stays.
If you want overnight access to stop but your reasons are simply out of spite, because your partner has a new girlfriend, or for no reason at all then you won’t be able to stop it and the mediator won’t agree the courts should look at it.
Legitimate reasons for overnight access to be stopped are things like:
- Child is put in danger
- Exposed to criminal activity
- Child is being abused or exposed to abuse
- Child is not being fed and watered
- Child does not have access to adequate facilities
- Child is being abandoned/neglected
If your issues are relating to poor diet, late bed times and the like then explain how this impacts the child’s development but also what you have to deal with when the children return. But, these will still be seen as invalid.
Let’s not talk about the final step as no one really wants to go the courts at all.
I want to stop overnight access – how do I do that?
Only family courts can stop it legally. But, they will not hear a case unless there is evidence of the parents trying to sort it out themselves and then a mediator agreeing it needs to go to the court for a judgement.
Even if it did end up in court, they may decide on a legally binding parenting plan instead of stopping access completely. You would need a very strong case to have it stopped!
Step 1: Try and deal with amicably
Your first step should be to be speak with your partner about why you want it to stop. Write down a list of reasons why you want it to stop, be detailed and offer rational explanations why it makes you unhappy and perhaps suggestions of how they can improve so that overnight access can continue but at a point where you’re happy with it.
Do not include petty or irrelevant reasons.
We recommend keeping records of the communication and your reasonable attempts, as it may help if it has to progress to a mediator and the courts. If your reasons are similar to the above then stopping access will be difficult and your best hope is an agreed parenting plan.
Next, once you have an understanding and a compromise it is good practice to have this written down so there can be no confusion. In this parenting plan you should list stuff such as:
- Groups and clubs they go to
- Who picks them up and at what times
- What time does access start and finish
- Dietary requirements
- Health and hygiene arrangements
- And so on…
What we’re hoping for here is two reasonable adults coming to an informal compromise with an agreed structured and some reasonable dos and don’ts.
Remember, unless your child’s welfare is at risk during overnight stays then you will just have to put up with it.
Step 2: Family law mediation services
A family law court would expect you to have started a parenting plan and may not hear a case until one has been made. We’ve covered one where you and your partner come up with it but if that doesn’t work and nothing comes to fruition then your next step is the use the services of a family law mediation company. This is a cost option, unfortunately but if you’re adamant that you have tried everything in step 1 then this step is necessary.
Again, if your reasons are not valid then this might be money down the drain.
Mediatiors will attempt to sit you both down and discuss the problems with overnight access (and anything else) and for both sides to argue their case. However, your partner is not obligated to take part and it is not legally binding.
At this point, the mediator will give their opinion on how reasonable your case is and offer some guidance on the likelihood a court will agree or disagree. If you are found to be unreasonable then they will tell you. Indeed, if they see that your partner is unreasonable and will likely lose overnight access if it goes to court they will find out.
But, as we mentioned previously, if one side has tried everything in step 1 and one side is refusing to engage in step 2 then it can work in your favour for step 3.
The objective for mediators is NOT to help you get ready for court. Their objectives at this stage is to help you come to a compromise or agreement on how overnight access (and other access) should work and come up with a Parenting Plan.
If the mediation has helped you both come to an agreement then this can be the final step and the hassle of a court order is not needed at all.
If it isn’t going well then the mediation services can help you turn the desired parenting plan into a legally binding document by creating the documents you need to present to the courts.
Step 3: Family courts
If you can’t come to an agreement together, mediation has failed and the mediator has suggested the courts should decide if parties are not happy then this is the final stage. The court will hear both sides and make a judgement on it which will then become legally binding.
If your partner refused to engage in mediation you may be able to go straight the courts provided you can show evidence of this – keep records!
The court will only be interested in the welfare of the child, so they may tend to enforce the parenting plan or a variation of it that the mediator came up with. They may not want to stop overnight access at all if it means improvements can be made from both sides. Despite what you may think, it is in the best interest of the child in most cases to continue to have contact with both parents.
Following this, if either party fails to stick to the agreed orders set out by the court then it can then lead to overnight access (and anything else) being stopped legally. This is the saddest of all outcomes.